EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Men O' the Northof 227th Battalion head off to World War I from Chapleau while local Red Cross Society supports effort and community holds reception for soldiers when war ends

Members of Chapleau Platoon, 227th Battalion at station
Recruiting for the 227th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War I was underway in Chapleau in May 1916 after its commanding officer Lieut-Col. C.H. LeP. Jones had paid a visit to the community.

At the same time the Chapleau branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society was active, and after the war ended the community held a Reception to Returned Soldiers.

Immediately after the visit the Chapleau Citizens Recruiting Committee was formed and by August, 62 volunteers had signed up to join the 120 Chapleau persons who were already in the forces. Quite an achievement for a small, isolated community of about 2,500 people although some of the volunteers came from nearby communities like Missanabie and White River.

In Snapshots Of Chapleau,'s Past on www.chapleau.com George Evans noted that on Saturday, August 12, 1916, the First Chapleau Platoon of the 227th Battalion of the Sudbury, Manitoulin, and Algoma Overseas Battalion paraded from the YMCA building on Lorne Street, down Birch Street, over the tracks, to the railway station.

George added: "As described in Vincent Crichton’s Pioneering in Northern Ontario, it was 'a red letter day.' The Town Band led the way and the whole town turned out to support the 'Men O’ the North' as they set out to do battle with 'the Hun' in fields of northeastern France. Six officers, fifty-three enlisted men, a bandsman and two buglers marched in full gear to the cheers of the patriotic people of Chapleau..."

Some would not return.

A Wikipidea entry says thats "The 227th Battalion, CEF was a unit in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. Based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and Camp Borden, the unit began recruiting in early 1916 on Manitoulin Island and in Algoma . After sailing to England in April 1917, the battalion was absorbed into the 8th Reserve Battalion on April 22, 1917. The 227th Battalion, CEF had one Officer Commanding: Lieut-Col. C. H. LeP. Jones."

Meanwhile, on the home front in Chapleau the local branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society was also very actively involved in the war effort. As I was browsing through Hugh Kuttner's immensely interesting web site, http://www.chapleau.com/
  I was sure that I recognized the handwriting on the minutes of a meeting of the branch in 1917 that had been made available and are on Hugh's site.

Reading the minutes, I realized that Edith Hunt, my grandmother, was the secretary, referred to in the minutes as "Hon. Sec." She had arrived in Chapleau from the United Kingdom just before World War I with her husband George, my grandfather, and their two daughters Elsie, and my mother Muriel.

The minutes were from an executive meeting held on October 22, 1917, in the council room in the Town Hall, which had been opened in 1914, one of the many projects in the early years of Chapleau led by its first reeve G.B. Nicholson, who had retired as head of the municipality after serving from 1901 to 1913 but was in attendance at the meeting.

Mr. Nicholson's only son Lorne, a member of the Chapleau Platoon was one who did not return home from World War I. He was killed on November 4. 1918.

From the minutes I was also surprised to learn that May (Mulligan) McMullen was the president of the Chapleau Red Cross Society at the time. I contacted Michael McMullen, my cousin and our family historian to see if he knew that his grandmother had held this position. It came as a surprise to him too. Michael's grandmother and mine, Lil (Mulligan) Morris were sisters. They were members of the Mulligan family after whom Mulligan's Bay is named.

The first vice president was Father Romeo Gascon, of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Parish and second vice president was Mrs. M.L. Copping, while Mrs. H.B. Pelton was the 'Hon. Treas.', the treasurer.

Wikipedia notes that the Canadian Red Cross was established in the fall of 1896 as an affiliate of the British Red Cross Society (then known as the National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War). Colonel Dr. George Sterling Ryerson spearheaded the organization's founding; he was earlier responsible for setting up Canada's St. John Ambulance Association in 1895. The Canadian Red Cross Society Act (1909) legally established the Red Cross as the corporate body in Canada responsible for providing volunteer aid in accordance with the Geneva Conventions

The Chapleau branch was busy during World War I assisting with the preparation of packages to be sent to the troops and others being affected by the war. Mrs. Copping was the general supervisor of the effort while Mrs. Cochrane was sewing convenor, Mrs. Ferguson packing convenor and Mrs. White surgical supplies convenor.

On April 21, 1919, Chapleau held a reception for returned soldiers chaired by Reeve J.D. McAdam with T.J. Wolfe as secretary of the organizing committee. It was held in the Town Hall which, with its theatre and downstairs hall, had become a centre of community life.

According to the official program, which is also available on http://www.chapleau.com/
 music for a concert was provided by Comte's Orchestra under the direction of Mr. Alf Comte, who I remember from the many years he operated the barber shop on Birch Street. The orchestra also played for a dance following dinner. As I reflected on growing up in Chapleau, it seemed that major celebrations included a concert, dinner and a dance all held in the Town Hall.

The concert program included a quartet, violin solo, flute solo, vocal solo, a reading and the overture by Comte's Orchestra.

The dinner menu included oysters in shell, roast turkey with cranberry sauce, tomatoes a la mode and a variety of deserts.

I have always been intrigued by the formality of dance programs in years gone by and the one at the reception was no exception. Divided into two parts, it began with the grand march around the hall, followed by two step, waltz, quadrelle, fox trot, barn dance, Paul Jones, one step and fox trot. Part two varied slightly but of course ended with the Home Waltz.

For this column, after discovering information about my grandmother and great aunt's involvements in the Chapleau Red Cross at http://www.chapleau.com/
 , I decided to generally focus on parts of community life connected to World War I primarily from http://www.chapleau.com/
 I extend my most sincere thanks to Hugh and all those who have made the site possible. It is an incredibly valuable resource. My only regret is that it was not available when I was teaching history at Chapleau High School. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

No comments:

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


click on image


Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE